Whether you look forward to America's favorite family gathering holiday with anxious excitement or bitter loathing, there is one truth about Thanksgiving: alcohol, whether as social lubrication or as self medication, makes everything about the day better.
Here are our five picks to grab on your way to the feast tomorrow, with a beer to pair for every possible situation (...almost):
For the Dad-in-Law who still watches Texas Tech games instead of real college football: Wicked Beaver Midnight Ale
Hailing from the tiny town of Wolfforth just outside Lubbock, Wicked Beaver Brewing -- one of Texas's youngest breweries -- has finally reached Houston. Their Midnight Ale is perfect for passing around the kitchen before dinner. Surprisingly light and crisp despite its stark black color and roasty malt flavor, this is a beer almost everyone can enjoy while snacking early in the day. Remember to save a bottle until dessert for paring with chocolate icebox pies or brownies.
For families that need a conversation starter: Rogue Pumpkin Patch
This beer's full name is Chatoe Rogue GYO Series First Growth Pumpkin Patch Ale, but since I wanted you to try it and not point and laugh at it, I decided to leave that out of the title. The GYO stands for "Grow Your Own," as a large portion of this beer's ingredients are owned and grown by Rogue Brewing -- including the pumpkins. Pouring a hazy amber color, Pumpkin Patch is an excellent intro to pumpkin beers. The flavor has no shortage of pumpkin and spice flavors but never overwhelms. This year's pumpkin orange bottle is sure to grab attention.
For dessert: New Belgium Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout
Brand new from Fort Collins, Colorado's favorite brewery, this beer is part of the popular Lips of Faith Series -- a series which also produces my favorite beer of 2012: Cocoa Mole. This stout is another cocoa nib-laced winner from New Belgium. Thick coffee and chocolate notes are prominent throughout the beer, assuring that even casual beer drinkers will probably enjoy this stout. Don't let the smooth easy drinking stout fool you, it packs a 10 percent ABV punch, so go easy -- no one wants to see grandpa in the police blotter on Black Friday.
For those of you with your own growlers: Live Oak Roggenbier
You won't find this one on shelves at Spec's. Roggenbier from Austin's Live Oak Brewing is only available on draft. Another beer that pours dark but packs a light drinkable body, this traditional german style and it's deliciously simple rye and spice flavors will pair well with most Thanksgiving meals from turkey to cranberry sauce. Find it on tap now at Hay Merchant. Bring your growler or have them fill one of their own and take this beer to go.
For the Beer Nerd Family: Boulevard Harvest Dance Wheat Wine
With a much smaller alcohol content and far thinner flavor profile, this beer packs the complexities of a barleywine or old ale but won't leave you passed out on your aunt's Persian rug. It's also great fresh, lacking the pesky need to be aged like a barleywine, meaning you can pick one up on your way to dinner. Its clean finish and intertwined wheat, coriander and candy apple flavors make it a perfect match for more savory meals like herb-roasted meats and stuffings.
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You may notice today is Wednesday, making the timetable to grab all these beers rather truncated -- but fear not: D&Q Mini-Mart is open Thanksgiving day and as of 12 hours ago, all four bottled beers are available on the shelves. If you would like to take the Roggenbier, however, get to The Hay Merchant today, as they are closed Thanksgiving.